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March 30, 2012     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 30, 2012 PAGE 13A By Donald Altschil JointMedia News Service For the past three years, Presi- dent Obama and his family have hosted a Passover seder in the White House for a select group of invited guests, both Jewish and non-Jewish. A Maxwell House Haggadah--probably the most widely used Passover seder text among American Jews--was placed at each table. The Haggadah (the Hebrew word means "telling") has a venerable and remarkably varied history, which long precedes the often wine-splotched classic pub- lishedby the coffee maker. Schol- ars have identified more than 3500 extant editions and there is hardly a Jewish community in the world that has not produced its own Haggadah. Although the Long before the Maxwell House Haggadah earliest manuscripts have been lost, the oldest complete text was found in a prayer book compiled by the philosopher and rabbinic scholar Saadia Gaon during the 10th century. The Haggadah reportedly emerged as an independent volume during the 15th century. Some scholars speculated about the origins of an edition that was publishedin Guadalajara, Spainin 1482,but the publication location has never been confirmed nor has it been definitively established as the first separately published Haggadah. In 1486, the Soncinos, a noted Italian Jewish family of printers, publishedasiddur towhich a Hag- gadah was bound. Although it is not known whether such binding was common during this time, some historians consider this Soncino volume a separate and independent work. The history of Haggadahs and the Soncino edition is recounted in an erudite and elegant 1975 volume entitled Haggadah and History. Written by the late Harvard professor Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, this work traces the evolution of this classic Passover text, which reflects the variegated and tumultuous history of the Jewish people. Most of this nearly 500-page work contains reprinted Hagga- dah pages from around the world. The rangeofpublishinglocations and languages employed is re- markable:aPoona, India, textwas published in the Indian language Marathi; the Istanbul, Turkey, edi- tion is bilingual, written in Ladino and Hebrew;aTelAviv Haggadah in Hebrew was produced in pre- state Palestine. Also depicted is an unusual item: a parody of the Haggadah. Published in Odessa, Russia, in 1885, this text used the Four Questions to highlight the poor pay and treatment of east European elementary school teachers, comparing their plight to that of Israelite slaves in Egypt! Yerushalmi notes that only 25 Haggadahs were published during the sixteenth century, but the production increased to 234 in the eighteenth century and more than 1200 during the nineteenth. Although this Pass- over text has been published for more than 600 years, the major- ity of individual editions were issued in the last century. Early Haggadahs featured hand-drawn illustrations and in more recent times, pictures were inserted to stimulate the "curiosity of the children...[and served] as a lively medium of visual instruction, much like today's picture books," Yerushalmi writes. The Sarajevo Haggadah is the mostfamous such work, abeauti- fully illustrated textoriginating in Barcelona in the 14th century, smuggled out of Spain during the Inquisition, transported to Italy and eventually ending up in the former Yugoslavia. Unlike many Jews, the Sarajevo Hagga- dah somehow survived the Nazi onslaught. The remarkable story of its survival has been evocatively told in the novel People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks, and in a network television docu- mentary. The Birds' Head Haggadah, the oldest surviving Ashkenazi illuminated manuscript, was produced in Germany during the 14th century. This strikingly beautiful volume derives its name from the birdlike human figures depicted in the margins. Scholars claim that this animal motif is related to the Second Command- ment that prohibits the creation of graven images. In lieu of draw- ing a human figure, the volume depicts distorted heads of birds, often wearing a headpiece and other garments. The Sarajevo Haggadah is permanently displayed in the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina while the Birds' Head Haggadah is found in the Israel Museum. Unlike the ever present and dependable Maxwell House Haggadah found at many Seders, these precious volumes are securely spared from matzoh crumbs, spilled wine and drip- pings of horseradish. AROUND [AS 1ABLE [amily ailh. ood Prices good 3128/12-4110112 OZ.  Silver Spring  horseradish   ,s save up to $1.79 on 2 with 8. 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